Questions & Answers About Acupuncture
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the insertion of stainless steel needles into the body to stimulate the body’s inherent healing capacity.
This form of organic medicine essentially activates the body to heal itself.
The acupuncture needles are inserted into very specific locations, called acupuncture points.
The Chinese have mapped out the points – that are located on specific pathways, or channels over thousands of years of intuitive and clinical trials.
Each acupuncture point has particular functional capacities: locally at the site of insertion or along the channel-organ system the point is located on.
Therefore a point needled on the hand on the large intestine channel has a healing effect on that part of the hand, a healing effect on the large intestine channel that goes up the arm into the neck and face, and a healing effect in the large intestine organ.
Through the use of western medical diagnostics, specifically Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), research has confirmed acupuncture point locations and their connections to various functions in the body.
How does acupuncture work?
To begin with, the context of Eastern medicine is a different medical paradigm that western allopathic medicine, and consists of concepts and principles that come from thousands of years of observing nature’s ways.
The stimulus acquired by the insertion of the acupuncture needle is akin to a neuro-electrical impulse, and clearly engages the nervous system.
The Chinese medical definition of this impulse is a “qi sensation,” and is much broader in context than just a neuro-electrical impulse, and includes the accessing and movement of blood, body fluids, and essence.
Therefore the stimulation of this qi sensation by the acupuncture needle activates the inherent healing capacity of the body.
What issues can be treated by acupuncture?
Acupuncture can help with anything really, but more specifically:
Flus, colds, coughs, chronic and acute phlegm disorders, immune issues, bronchial asthma, bronchitis, shortness of breath, wheezing, nasal drip, allergies, environmental sensitivities.
Eye, Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders
Dry eyes, tearing, toothaches, gum issues, earaches, tinnitus, infections, immunity, sinus inflammation, sinus congestion, nasal inflammation or dryness, sore throat, loss of voice.
Digestive tract issues acute or chronic, weak digestion, acid reflux, inflammation of the stomach, duodenal ulcers, inflammation of the colon, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, bacterial dysentery, diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, bloating.
Muscular System disorders and Nervous System disorders
Headache, Insomnia, migraines, facial paralysis or nerve pain, weakness after a stroke, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, sciatica, cervical spine pain, thoracic spine pain, low back pain, arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, neuropathy, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis.
Painful menstruation, amenorrhea, PMS, menopause, andropause, fertility issues, frequent urination, inhibited urination, vaginal discharge, kidney pain or weakness.
Depression, Addictions, and Mood Disorders
Depression, mania, bipolar disorder, PTSD, dissociative disorders, mood disorders, detox from psychotropic medication, detox from alcohol, drugs, cigarettes.
Recuperative Therapy/Sports Therapy
Acupuncture can be used to treat many issues: any joint pain, post surgical pain and rehab, hip, knee pain, ankle pain, neck and shoulder tension, upper, mid, and low back pain, sprains and strains, taxation fatigue, as well as maintenance during endurance training.
What are the acupuncture needles like, and does it hurt?
The needles are extremely thin, nothing like an injection needle, and designed to move through the skin smoothly. The experience is nothing like getting a shot.
Initially the sensation is like the prick of a sharp fingernail – no more. As the acupuncturist obtains a stimulus to the needle, you may feel some tingling, heaviness, distention, or electrical sensations around the needle or moving up or down the pathway.
A subtle shock may be felt in some locations, yet usually this resolves in 10 to 20 seconds. The experience is relaxing, comfortable, often yielding the feeling of something “moving.”
How deep do acupuncture needles go?
That depends upon the body part where the points are selected, the issue being addressed by the acupuncture treatment, the patient’s age, and their fundamental constitution. Most often acupuncture needles are inserted from 1/4 body inch to 1 body inch in depth..
Is there any risk of infection – are the needles clean?
There is absolutely no risk of infection. The site of the insertion is cleaned with alcohol, needles are stainless steel, sterilized at the factory with ethylene gas, and are one-time use, throw away medical waste.
Are there different styles of acupuncture?
Yes, such as Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, European, and of course American acupuncture. Like many types of medicine, the varying techniques are developed through empirical research and development, many of which come from modern times.
Each patient should seek out the type of acupuncture physician that’s most comfortable for them.
What should I look for when selecting a qualified acupuncturist?
Patients should seek out licensed acupuncture physicians.
This is the professional licensure that requires more than 3000 hours of study and clinical experience, including the integration of herbal pharmacology.
In some states there is allowance for certified acupuncturists – these practitioners have taken a 100 or 150 hour course and are piggybacking in on another kind of practitioner license.
It’s important to make the distinction between the two trainings in acupuncture, so ask about where the practitioner trained, how long the training was, how long he or she has been in practice, and what experience the practitioner has had in treating the particular issue.
Will I need one treatment or many?
Acute conditions often resolve in one acupuncture treatment.
In more chronic conditions often we are seeing particular patterns, and any pattern that has taken a long time to develop generally takes some time to heal, or retrain the body to break the pattern.
Many issues resolve after 6 to 16 treatments.
Long standing disease may take more time. Your practitioner should be able to give you short and long-term treatment strategies and plans.
Is there anything I need to do before going to my first acupuncture appointment?
- Wear loose comfortable clothing. Women should not wear one-piece dresses.
- Avoid treatment when excessively fatigued, famished, emotionally upset, or shortly after sex.
- Always tell your practitioner if you are pregnant.
Is there anything I need to do while receiving acupuncture?
- Make an effort to relax, although this often happens as part of the treatment. Most patients really settle into a quiet meditative state, so if you’re experiencing something else let your practitioner know.
- Do not get up, change your position, or move suddenly. Call your acupuncture practitioner if you need something or feel faint.
- If you find yourself uncomfortable at any point, call your practitioner so that they can make the proper adjustments to the needles or stop he treatment. The experience should really be pleasant.
What can I expect after my appointment?
Most often patients are experiencing less pain or resolved symptoms.
Most feel really great, energized, relaxed, more themselves.
The process of stimulating the body to heal itself is different than masking symptoms with a drug, so at times symptoms will come and go over a period of time.
Generally, you should expect to feel better.